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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3236

Question No. 624

Mr Lloyd asked the Minister for Communications, upon notice, on 13 October 1983 :

(1) Has his attention been drawn to the ABC television program Countrywide on 10 August 1983, dealing with arson.

(2) Is it a fact that the program demonstrated how to set up a petrol bomb and advised what chemicals were required.

(3) Does he regard this to be irresponsible considering (a) the repeated attempts by the Victorian Police to stop the program and (b) the concern of and action by the Victorian Standing Committee on Arson.

Mr Duffy —The answer to the honourable member's question, based on advice provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) No. The Countrywide story concerned a farmer who had suffered vandalism and deer poaching on his property. Later an attempt had been made to blow up his car with a home-made bomb. In telling the story Countrywide recreated the car scene and included some of the potentially explosive materials found in the car. However, it omitted the name of the chemical, which was understood to have been used to ignite the 'bomb'. The ABC was advised at the time that the description of the 'bomb' in the program was such that it would not constitute an explosive device without the addition of a further material, which was not named.

(3) No. The original program went to air on Wednesday, 10 August. The following day the Executive Producer of Countrywide was contacted by a member of the Victorian Police Arson Squad who requested a private screening of the item. After consultation with the ABC's Legal Department, the Executive Producer rang the Arson Squad on Friday, 12 August advising that a viewing could be arranged. Although relevant pieces of the program transcript were read to the Squad representative, no objections were raised and he declined the ABC's invitation to view the film saying that he would watch the repeat telecast on the Sunday afternoon.

There has been no further contact from the Victorian Police Arson Squad, although the ABC subsequently received a letter of complaint about the program from the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police on 15 September. There were definitely no 'repeated attempts' by the Victorian Police to stop the program going to air.

The concern of the Victorian Standing Committee on Arson was expressed by its Chairman in a letter on 14 September over a month after the program had gone to air. I must stress that the ABC has complete independence on programming matters .